William Burges ARA (1827-1881)

'An architect whose place it will be difficult to fill, his mediaeval learning being almost as unique as his decorative ingenuity'

The architect and designer William Burges was educated at King's College, London, and trained as an engineer before turning to architecture, first under Edward Blore, then under M. D. Wyatt. From the 1850s he was an important Gothic architect, his inclination being towards the early French Gothic style, with heavy, blocky forms and thick columns. In the 1860s he rebuilt Cork Cathedral (St Finn Bar), and later worked for the very wealthy Marquis of Bute, most notably on Cardiff Castle from 1869-1881, and Castell Coch from 1875 until about the same date. Cardiff Castle in particular is filled with complicated highly decorated interiors showing the inventiveness of Burges. From the 1870s we may also mention his Yorkshire churches, at Skelton and Studley, and in America, Hartford College, Connecticut.

Burges was also attracted to medieval decoration and symbolism, and the interior craftsmanship and decoration of buildings became one of his main concerns. In this, he followed the teaching of Ruskin, and he may be classed in the Arts and Crafts tradition. He lived in a house of his own design, including the furnishings, at Melbury Road in Kensington. He was elected ARA only a few months before his death in 1881.

As well as the buildings already mentioned, we may mention the interior decorations for Worcester College Chapel, Oxford, and at Waltham near London, the restoration of Waltham Abbey.

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